Best Emergency Food Supplies

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for Best emergency food supplies

Power may fail during a natural or manmade disaster. No power means no refrigeration, no supermarket shelves to visit, and no restaurants or fast food available. What do you do now? An emergency food supply prepared and packaged to last for years gives you the ability to feed yourself and your loved ones through a crisis.

Fortunately, products exist for just this purpose. With one purchase, you may be able to stock up on everything you’d need in the event of a sustained food shortage.

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Food item shelf life depends on several factors including oxygen, light, temperature, and moisture. Survival foods are packaged for a long shelf life — anywhere from five to 30 years with no refrigeration required. When the power goes out, your food remains safe.

Key considerations

Assess your needs

While coping with the aftermath of a natural disaster, you and your family need to eat. Should an emergency or a food crisis occur, how many family members and friends do you anticipate you will need to feed? How and what do you plan to feed them? Keep in mind any special needs of family members with diet restrictions, food allergies, specific nutritional requirements, diabetes, and infants and the elderly.

Although it is possible to go several days without eating as long as you continue to drink water, long periods without nourishment can deplete the body and slow down the metabolism. To maintain a reasonable level of energy, our bodies must consume more calories than the bare minimum to avoid declining into a state of semi-starvation.

To provide the amount and types of foods your family will require to survive, determine the optimal number of calories needed daily for each person, and multiply that total by the number of days you believe you will need to rely on your food reserve before normal food supplies become available.

Long-term emergency food storage

If disaster preparation is on your mind, now may be the best time to plan and stock a family emergency food storage area. It requires little household storage space to prepare for the next disaster. Assemble an adequate emergency food supply and store it anywhere in your apartment, condo, mobile home, motor home, basement, or garage to equip your family with the ability to stay in one place until conditions improve.

Practice emergency preparedness

Create and practice a family disaster plan, including how you will connect as a family in the event disaster strikes while family members are separated at work or school.

Prepare and pack individual emergency backpacks for each family member, including the food and water they will require for a minimum of three days. Make sure each backpack includes identification, medications if required, and emergency contact information.

Taking into consideration the food preferences of family members, dietary needs, and caloric requirements, plan family meals for a minimum of two weeks. As budget limitations allow, start to assemble and store these items within the home. Survivalists and preppers advise, “No disaster or food emergency is likely to be of short duration: plan accordingly.”

Reduce your dependency on the supermarket

Survival food is the same food we purchase at the supermarket for daily consumption, except survival foods are much less expensive and are stored in bulk packaging for longer shelf life.

Freeze-dried, tinned, and dehydrated survival food items include:

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Flour

  • Rice

  • Eggs and dairy

  • Dried lentils and beans

  • Nuts, seeds, grains

  • Peanut butter

  • Cereal

  • Dried pasta

  • Powdered drink mixes

  • Granola or power bars

  • Jerky, dehydrated or canned meats (pork, beef, chicken, turkey)

  • Dried or tinned fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel)

  • Sugar

  • Coffee

  • Tea

  • Chocolate

  • Water

  • Salt

  • Spices

  • Yeast

Save time and money

Savvy shoppers know purchasing bulk foods is one of the easiest and most economical ways an average family can save hundreds of dollars annually. Practice being frugal. Buying food in larger quantities without fancy packaging, expensive branding, and empty air reduces your family’s dependency on the supermarket and saves you money and time.

  • Buying dried, freeze-dried, or dehydrated foods in bulk not only saves significant money, time, and gas, it also ensures you will have nutritious food preparations on hand to cope with any emergency or weather-generated inconvenience.

  • Avoid paying top dollar for fancy packaging in small quantities. Many survival food purchases are available in individual servings or bulk packaging in cans, buckets, and bags up to 50 pounds.

When purchasing survival foods, ask yourself the following questions

  • What is the total caloric value of the individual package?

  • How long is the extended shelf life?

  • Is the product easily stored?

  • How does it taste?

  • Does the product withstand extreme conditions and temperatures?

  • Does the item require adding water, preparation, or cooking?

Emergency food supplies are typically packaged as individual servings of meals designed to provide the needed calories for survival spread out over the day in three ready-to-eat meals. These individual meal packs are packaged in air-tight sealed plastic or metal tins, tubs, or buckets. Buckets may be round or squared for ease of storage. Emergency food packets are packed in sizes ranging from 72-hour to 30-day containers.

Emergency food supplies prices

Prices of emergency food supplies vary depending on the manufacturer, the merchandiser, the brand name, packaging, and the type and amount of food. Because you are buying in bulk, the cost of emergency food supplies is often considerably less than if you are purchasing individual packets of any given product.

As an example, protein snack bars bought one at a time at the corner convenience store cost $3 or more. The same product purchased in a case of 150 bars costs less than $1 a bar.

Using prepackaged, ready-to-eat meals as a cost comparison, in the lower price range expect to pay $1 a serving when packaged as a 30-day food supply. In the middle price range, a 30-day supply of prepackaged ready-to-eat meals will cost $2 to $8 a meal. In the higher price range, gourmet goodies can cost as much as $15 per serving for a 30-day food supply.


  • Canned food is good for a maximum of three years.

  • Dry, dehydrated, or freeze-dried foods can last for decades.

  • Stockpile only foods processed and packaged for long shelf life.

  • Mold, oxygen, and bacteria contribute to food spoilage. Store emergency food supplies in air-tight containers. Containers should be oxygen-impermeable with mylar liners with an oxygen absorber placed inside each container.

  • When purchasing emergency foods online, look for a product that offers free shipping and a money-back satisfaction guarantee.

  • In the aftermath of a disaster, the situation can seem pretty grim, and keeping up morale is integral to survival. With that in mind, make sure to include foods that can be warmed and served hot as well as food choices that will please the palate. As you plan emergency foods for children, try to find their favorite treats and comfort foods to help encourage young appetites to consume the nutrition they will need during a food crisis.

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Survival foods are not just for long-term emergency food storage. They’re perfect for home kitchens, campers, and backpackers.


Q. Which cooking oils have a long shelf life?
Coconut oil tastes great, is lightweight, and has the longest shelf life of any cooking oil. Nut oils (sesame, almond, walnut) can turn rancid in weeks. Coconut oil can last more than three years and is a useful item to add to your survival food supply list.

Q. What baking ingredients have the longest shelf life?
Properly stored, many nuts, seeds, and grains have a long shelf life. As an example, dry corn stored in a moisture-free environment will last for several decades. Properly stored wheat berries have a shelf life of more than 30 years.

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